American Airlines Pilots Union Tries To Scare Passengers Away From Flying

American Airlines Captain Dennis Tajer is all over the news. He’s the Communications Committee Chair of the carrier’s pilots union. And he has his employer on blast.

American and its pilots union have been in negotiations over a new contract. The latest company offer is for a raise of roughly 17% by the end of 2024. The union’s new President says they knew their members are going to get paid – the real negotiations are over work rules and quality of life issues.

Their negotiating strategy seems to be to trash the airline in the media, with a mix of charges that have a grain of truth combined with nonsense. Tajer flat-out lied on CNBC’s Squawk Box claiming that the federal government was instructing its employees to book away from American Airlines.

Now he’s taken to Good Morning America to air grievances like George Costanza in 1997.

American Airlines pilot and the communications chairman for the APA, .@DennisTajer, discusses whether airlines can keep up with the demand amid scheduling and staffing issues.#GMA3 pic.twitter.com/gFzkEiPlFq

— GMA3: What You Need To Know (@ABCGMA3) July 8, 2022

He can’t quite offer a consistent narrative about whether the problem with airline operations is how management is running the airline (including whether there’s enough throughput for pilot training and onboarding) or whether the problem is just paying pilots enough (including paying them more to get them to pick up more trips voluntarily).

Last weekend American accidentally let pilots cancel their trips and the airline is paying pilots a premium to reinstate those trips. Tajer says the solution to pilot shortages is that same premium pay, but he also says the problem is a training backup.

He also scares passengers saying pilots are scheduled with too little rest, though he says delays are often compounded because the airline complies with government rules which ensure pilots are given enough rest.

  • It would be a coherent position to argue that government safety standards are unsafe, and lobby to change them. It would be a coherent position to say that a key negotiating priority is more rest in order to allow for safety.

  • He also says no pilot will fly when it’s unsafe. Should passengers be afraid then, or not?

  • And it’s an odd strategy to chase customers away from the airline, though a common union tactic. The fewer passengers, the less flying for his members. The lower margins, the less his members can get paid. It may be a ‘pressure tactic’ but one akin to Cleavon Little and the townspeople of Rock Ridge.

Tajer makes accusations that are so vague, non-specific, and self-contradictory it’s not even clear what his – and the union’s – position is on the airline, but vague mentions of unsafe skies aren’t great for the median viewer of Good Morning America.

He talks about “management ma[king] storms bleed into the next day” as though Robert Isom and David Seymour control the weather. He says things are so bad that the old strategy of taking the first flight of the day to avoid delays which stack and compound throughout the day no longer works, and identifies delays from one day bleeding into the next because of required crew rest as a culprit.

Major weather events almost always have ripple effects. Planes and crew are out of position. Flights are delayed to meet minimum crew rest – when a crew arrives late at night, morning flights are rescheduled for later to ensure standard overnight time between flying. By complaining about tthe ripple effects of weather, does Tajer want less crew rest to avoid these delays?

He ultimately doesn’t seem to understand that less work and less efficient scheduling trades off with more pay. If pilots can’t fly as much, if an airline needs more pilots to operate the same schedule, then each pilot isn’t going to earn as much. About a week earlier on Squawk Box Andrew Ross Sorkin asked him about this, since his narrative seems to suggest what’s needed are more pilots rather than better-paid pilots.

Tajer ends with a story of standing in line while deadheading and talking to a passenger who, he says, was ‘bumped from a later flight’.

“We just got bumped off the next flight too because of the class of the class of ticket that we have [the passenger said].. the ticket that you buy actually gives you priority for rebooking.’

Tajer describes that as “unfair treatment.” And while a first class ticket would affect standby priority even I’m not sure what fare class I can purchase for rebooking priority, or that would keep me from getting bumped off of a later flight during irregular operations.

The advice he offers passengers doesn’t make sense. He denigrates the company his members work for. I really don’t understand what his union thinks he’s accomplishing going out there throwing out vague accusations and scare stories that are only loosely related to facts. It doesn’t get more money or better terms for members, who frankly should be embarrassed at what’s being offered in their name.

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